The preparation it takes to take on a new job and a new life in a different country, facing and overcoming the challenges of raising a family upon just moving, and setting time for yourself.
From Work to Home is a special collaboration series with Stripe, the financial infrastructure platform for businesses. I talk to Vivian about her career with Stripe, her experience of moving to Singapore from the States, and how she has learned to be able to balance her work with her duties as a mother. Vivian is an Engineering Manager at Stripe’s APAC Banking team. She is a mother of 2 lovely daughters, aged 3 and 6.
Vivian talks to us about how she met her husband in the US, in the States’ Bay Area. They got married, and started their careers in tech space there. When her husband decided to go back to China to start a business, she knew that staying in the States would prove to be difficult and so she moved to Singapore with her two very young children.
To get in touch with Vivian, find her on LinkedIn:
Don’t forget to head over to www.parents.fm to stay up to date with new and previous episodes, join our community of parents in tech or drop me a line.
Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host, Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies. To catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones, head over to www. to join our community of parents in tech. There, you can also drop me a question, idea, feedback or suggestion. See you next time!
- [00:45] Introducing today’s guest, Vivian
- [00:51] About Vivian’s family
- [1:47] Why they moved to Singapore
- [03:38] Moving to Singapore with the family
- [05:14] Challenges in moving to Singapore
- [08:32] Being a woman in tech
- [10:08] How moving has helped her personal life
- [12:09] Vivian’s self-care
- [14:20] On finding a network in a new country
- [16:38] On her childrens’ challenges when they moved
- [18:33] What Vivian would do differently
- [18:55] On working at Stripe and how they supported her move
- [21:14] A lesson Vivian learned as a parent in tech
Qin En [00:00]
Hi, I am Qin En. And this is the Parents in Tech podcast.
In this special collaboration series with Stripe, the financial infrastructure platform for businesses, I speak with parents at Stripe on how they create work-life integration and balance their career ambitions with family aspirations.
In this episode, I speak with Vivian from Stripe's APAC Banking team. Vivian is a mother to two children, age three and six.
Hey, Vivian, welcome to the Parents in Tech show. To begin with, can you tell us a bit more about your family?
Hi Qin. Hi everyone. This is Vivian. About my family, I've actually just moved to Singapore about two years ago.
So I'm a new immigrant to this beautiful country. I have two lovely girls. They're six and three years old. They're here in a local preschool. We live in a central area of Singapore. My husband is currently in China. We met each other in US, San Francisco. That's where we got to know each other, got married, started our career together in the tech space.
As a family, we spent about 10 years in the States' Bay Area. And then roughly five years ago, he decided to move back to China and start his own business. And I wasn't ready for that move. I stayed in the States and then, you know, it's not the best to set up. So finally, two years ago I decided to move out of the US and move closer to Asia.
And that's [why], I'm here in Singapore.
Qin En [01:47]
Wonderful. So really much of reducing the distance between that. So much to unpack over there, but let me start off first by asking why the move from US to Singapore, right? You built your career over there. I'm sure there's a space that you are very familiar. What, what was the motivation behind that move?
Yeah, absolutely. A lot of my friends ask me that and to disclose some found factor, I have not stepped on my toe into the Singapore soil before I decided that I'm going to move here, which is quite different from many other people. They do [a] business trip or they at least do tourist trip. But for me, the initial thinking was definitely moving back to Asia, just to be closer to family initially was looking at moving to Mainland China.
I did a lot of research, even did some interviews, it was certain things of just the working culture there is not necessarily the best fit for, you know, my style and my preference. And Singapore came across as a possibility because my husband actually did his high school here. And so we were talking and he was like, why don't you think about Singapore as an option?
So I started to research a lot about the country. Obviously we talk about the country where he spent four years here before. I know a little bit about the country history, how it's like from, you know, reading books and posts. Anyway, as I was digging into it, it just become quite of [an] easy decision to make, but there's so many good things about being in a central of the APAC region or Southeast Asia region. And then as I was looking into the tax base, there's so much happening, both like robo companies expanding to the country, taking Singapore as the APAC hub or local homegrown tech startup. It just made me very, very excited as I was looking into the professional opportunities.
Yeah. And then down the road, I think it was quite smooth. Like I found a Stripe off our opportunity here did the interview. It was a really good match. The process was quite smooth.
Qin En [03:38]
Wonderful. So I'm curious as to where were you and your family life when you just moved? If I do my math right, when you came first in Singapore, you had two very young kids, probably your younger one was one plus year old.
So tell me what they was like the resettle and move your two young kids to get a review to a place halfway across the world.
Yeah, that's a lot. And actually we moved, uh, during the middle of the pandemic. So we were posed to be here a little bit earlier and then the pandemic just kicked in. So we got stuck in the States for a little bit.
My older daughter got stuck in Mainland China where she couldn't kind of come to Singapore. And we, my younger daughter and myself stuck in US because we couldn't come to Singapore and the borders were all closed all of a sudden. And so it was quite hectic. But anyway, we managed us through, we did the quarantine with my younger one in Singapore, but once we're here in the country, a lot of it was finding local schools. Singapore made it, I think it was relatively easier; just a lot of options. If you're not particularly picky, there's a lot of options available. We just find one that's like close enough and it's been amazing. She settled in very well. Looking for apartment, we managed to get a helper which is [such a relief]. I think the best of that Singapore has offered to me so far as giving that extra support. What else it's been, you know, Singapore is known to be so expert friendly, multicultural. So I think as immigrants have find it particularly easy to settling in. In a lot of ways, I feel a lot more like home than US, I guess. So, yeah, it's been [an] amazing almost two years.
Qin En [05:14]
Wow. You make, it almost sounds so easy. But I feel like moving to a different country, one that you haven't been before, plus doing it right in the middle of a pandemic, plus having two children? Come on, I'm sure there is at least one challenge that you had to overcome.
Tell me about what was the most surprising challenge that you weren't really expecting, but when you arrive and as you were settling, you encountered it.
That's a good question. Well, maybe the rental price was something kind of surprised me a little bit. It was a lot more expensive than I had initially expected. And school fees are also not particularly, you know, on the affordable side.
I think other than just generally like cost for some of the big items were definitely on the higher end. Otherwise, whether it's a concern, but to be frank, I mentally prepared myself this to be a place where it's really hard. Other than the fact we cannot go out during the middle of the day, I find it to be pretty manageable.
If there's anything, I think there's more challenges with like "toddler terrible two". And now she's three, um, which is like very general parenting challenges. I don't think there's anything Singapore specifically imposed here. It's just more like kids at [a] certain age is harder to cope with and then you have to balance that with, you know, work.
Qin En [06:31]
Yeah. Got it. And on the front I also want to ask, because you moved to a new place and presumably a new company, a new role certainly that's a lot at work that you get to deal with. And I think a big part of doing a new role, joining a new company, it's always the need to almost prove yourself. Should they at delivering value for us?
And especially for yourself in a leadership role, you have people who are looking up to you. So I'm curious as to what were some of the strategies or tactics for you to really cope with the initial settling in which is not too long ago, right? Just two years.
Yeah. Yeah, totally. There is somewhat of putting a little bit more hours. I remember when my younger ones were like two years old when I first started working here as a new member, I was just so excited to learn. So inevitably you kind of work a little bit extra hour to speed up your ramp up. And I think the school here offers a pretty long hour, which has been beneficial. I'm able to like stretch out to the time that I can focus at work while kids is at school.
There's definitely a lot of like specific tech contexts here that I think my years of experience in other companies before joining Stripe, Singapore has helped mentally prepare. A lot of Silicon valley tech companies have similar working structure, organizational structure and expectations. So that's actually a good realization when I was making a particular decision on whether to join a homegrown company here, which could be really exciting and probably have a more upside versus a US company expanded it to Singapore.
I give a lot of thoughts, but one of the reasons that I settled in the US company like Stripe, in addition to, you know, the company itself as being a really good company. A lot of is that it doesn't give me a lot of easy time given that a lot of cultural and ways of operating is inherited from a US company, which I'm decently familiar with. So I think that in like professional working culture, there hasn't been too much of a shift that definitely helped me settling in and ramping up the fast.
Qin En [08:32]
Got it and being a woman tech leader. Now tell me how that is like, I guess both in Silicon valley and also in Singapore because I would still say it's still the exception rather than the norm, at least from what I see, I will love to be corrected on that. But yeah, tell me about what the state of things are, how things have changed in your career. Tell me a bit more about that.
Yeah, totally. Let's see, I've always been somewhat of a minority, right? Cause I started, uh, with a software engineer, which female is the minority in that role, and then transitioned to be a engineer manager and also a minority in that group. In general, I think both of US and Singapore, and maybe now like develop our country as a whole has been realizing more and more that there's unconscious gender bias or structural biases that people are keen to kind of overcome or correct. So in some ways, everyone is trying to put extra support. There's so many kind of social groups, different forums. Books and talks to share tips of female or minorities in those fields, how they overcome some of the biases, how do they really stands out?
So I think I'm actually one of the kind of smaller cohort probably benefited from some of the social shifts. Personally I'm very appreciative of that throughout my career. I had a lot of mentors, a lot of support from different companies that I've worked at. They're all very supportive of like female in tech, female in leadership. Coming to Singapore specifically, I think like this social structure of helper and just other logistical convenience for a broad by this country is so crucial.
My personal life quality has increased dramatically ever since moving to Singapore where I'm able to carve out a little bit of my personal time, whether it's workout, whether it's like reading. Whether it's [being] social with my friends and coworkers, Singapore has been able to offer that structured support that I can afford it. Whereas in USA, I think that's a little bit harder because it's really hard to find domestic help. So then after work, all I do is fully dedicated to homework and kid stuff.
Qin En [10:39]
Mm, got it. So it sounds like there's a lot more resources, platforms, people to speak to. So I'm going to ask you, what is one advice or one takeaway you had that really stuck and where did that come from?
In term of like female in leadership?
Qin En [10:55]
Maybe this my most recent realization, which is as a woman or as a human being in general, really focuses on investing in yourself, whether it's about, you know, your own house, physical house, mental house, or skillset, it's super critical.
I think I've had a number of years that a lot of what I do is like giving right. I give time to my kids. I give time to my family. I give time to what work needs. And at certain times you feel like you are not growing internally; you don't think you're better as a individual day to day. And there was times that I feel maybe depressed because of that sense of being stuck at some stage and not investing in myself.
So I think at this age and this stage of my life, I've realized it really important to invest in yourself so that you keep your energy up. You're happy. You're energetic day-to-day. That actually enforces this like positive feedback loop where you're nicer to your kids. You're like more positive at work, which is pretty, pretty crucial.
I've had a female friends, which is like, this is a little bit more common in female demographic or segments of people that they tends to just putting a lot of resources or tensions on other people and forgot about that they should [take care of themselves].
Qin En [12:09]
Yes. So what does taking care of yourself look like? Because like I said, we all go through tough days. There's always slums and a big part about being a parent is that you don't want to bring that back to your kids or your family. So what are ways for you to maintain and keep that up? I would say like, get yourself out of these challenging situations.
Yeah, totally. It's custom balanced that I struck for myself, especially lately. I think these days I have been a lot more deliberate about carving out time for myself and then deliberately prioritizing. As an example, I used to do yoga when I was younger. And then as life goes on, work and family and kids all takes your time. And I stopped practicing yoga probably for a number of years.
And then actually kind of, since COVID, I started bringing back my habit and it, in some way, it doesn't matter how busy I am that day, whether it's kids or work, unless it's like [my] house falling down. I try and make sure to give 20 minutes [to] myself just doing stretches and doing the thing that I love and keep myself happy.
That's like something very small, but once you're consistent with it, I feel like my mental, this energy level has been pretty up there because of this like tiny 20 minutes investment that you have with yourself every day. And other things I've found very helpful is always having this like social supporting community, if you will.
I think part of how I find Singapore being so easy to settle in is not so after I moved in, I was able to, through friends and coworkers met other mothers that are in similar age, have similar kids. We happen to enjoying hanging out with each other. And then there's times that we go out without [our] kids.
There's times that we date having that like small friends circle community, where sometimes it'd be an outlet, sometimes it'd be companion when I need it to be, has been pretty helpful.
Qin En [14:01]
Wonderful. And so I want to also get a bit more advice on that, right? Because coming to a new place with a new job with two young kids, I think one of the biggest challenges that people always wonder is how do I even find the time, find the places to make friends?
What was that journey like for you? And on hindsight, what do you think worked? Or what do you think you did that led to you being able to build out the network pretty quickly?
Yeah, I think work has been good. Like we came here, we have co-workers with kids that have been a really good channel. I happen to have some friends through my husband's younger experience or tenure at a Singapore.
So he introduced some folks. I have one fun story which was, I think Facebook had some very explicit channels about like Singapore expats. So I used to read the posts there; I ask a question and someone was nice enough to give me a lot of suggestions. And actually I joined the school that she recommended and then [it turns] out our kids were similar [in] age.
So I think Singapore in that sense, you know, expats, particularly, seems to have a tighter network. I've found that to be a fun interaction and, you know, we've evolved over time since the first interaction, but, you know, we hang out off work, et cetera. Yeah. Generally it takes time, but I think you can balance it with, you know, taking the kids out so that it's a play date.
Um, and then the other thing, as I said is try [to] allocate time for yourself. So if you have helper, you have babysitter. Oh, for the first six months in Singapore, I didn't have a helper. Well, maybe 10 months I didn't have [a] helper. So I hired [a] babysitter on demand so they could help me sit the kids, which is quite crucial.
Yeah. I think just like use the resources that you could find through different channels to take some of the weight off your shoulder.
Qin En [15:51]
Got it. Okay. You're going to humor me for the first—it's just crazy to me, because I only have one daughter she's going to turn two soon, but I definitely need help. So, what was it like for the babysitter?
Was it the babysitter coming in to cover the time when you were at work and then at the evenings, it was just you? Like, tell me a bit more about what happened in those months.
Oh yeah. Yeah. As soon as we landed, not far, almost the next day like, we put my kids to a preschool. So we started the school searching when we were remote.
So that's one. So as soon as possible, I need to put her in the school but that after that it's like off school hours, I try to find helpers. There's like really good app, different, actually different kinds of app I've tried. That they can come in and do some home cleaning and to spend time with the kids. Yeah.
Qin En [16:38]
It stands out to me, Vivian that you are someone who is very adaptable and being able to plan meticulously in advance. But I'm curious for both of you your children. Were there any challenges with the adjustments when they first came? Were there parts, like whether it's cuisine, the ways of working, the weather that they didn't like they weren't used to? Because I know west coast best coast. And I think a big part of that is the beautiful weather that you get.
Yeah, totally. My older daughter had a bit of [a] language barrier, believe it or not, she spent most of the timein the States, but then we give her most of the exposures in Chinese. So she was not as fluent in English as probably similar age as who is like English, native speaker.
So when she first came to here, it was bilingual, but there's definitely some expectations of level of proficiency of English. She couldn't quite cope with or meet the bar. So I think for the first few months she had a little bit like resistance in going to school. And it's a new environment, she doesn't necessarily know her friends yet.
And half of the time she couldn't quite understand what people are saying or maybe 40% of the time. Her personality kind of shifted from used to be a talkative, expressive kid to a little bit more quiet. It took a bit of an adjustment but I wasn't particularly worried because I know kids young age would learn fast enough.
So I just keep pushing her, send her to school while sometimes there's tears on her face. I try to give her extra English materials online courses, offline, so then she can catch up. I don't think it took long, but language barrier I think was where it had the most apparent impact when she moved here.
Yeah, that's probably the main thing. And she misses her old friends was not here. So it takes a bit of time to reestablish her little network. But that [was] probably solved fast enough that once she grasped the language and she started to have friends. Now she's such a happy girl in her class.
Qin En [18:33]
That's wonderful. And so maybe if I ask you to turn back the clock two years, Vivian. Was there anything that you would have done differently, whether as a mom or at the workplace with making the adjustment and transition?
Maybe given my other daughter more exposure to English back then, that's probably the main thing. Otherwise I wish I had moved to Singapore earlier.
Qin En [18:55]
Because, it's a, it's such a great opportunity. And also, maybe tell me a bit about, about Stripe. How did they facilitate that adjustment? Because starting a new job, I'm sure that established set of practices and all that, but I guess for you, it was slightly different. You were moving from a new country altogether. Tell me a bit more about how they supported, that process.
Yeah, no, Stripe has been amazing in supporting that process. I [was] essentially interviewed, went through the process in US. I was physically in US, talked to most of the US team, did some zoom calls with Singapore based team members. They sponsored my visa application work pass application, which lucky enough, I think back then was able to get the pass. What else? I think there was like my manager back then was in Singapore while myself is in US. So there was a few months time I was working from US with Singapore team.
So I had a to shift in my hour to late night in US time zone, but you know, they time here in Singapore. Folks were accommodating. They never demanded me to work like extremely late hours. We heavily rely on written communication. That's a big part of our culture. And I think that has been a plus or situations like COVID or you have to work a little bit remote.
What else? I think generally, because Stripe had like offices in US and Singapore. So there's like a baseball side that has been very helpful. I was able to go to the offices in US and Singapore, those people, both side, we had the lawyers who helped me prepare all those [documents]. Part of the relocation package, they send us someone to kind of tour me around the country. So that has been a big relief. They help[ed] ship my stuff. Generally, I feel like it's very considerate, well-packaged. Oh, the other thing they offer, what do I call 30 day accomodation for temporary housing when we first land, which made a huge difference.
Right. I had a 30 days of time to like lock in uh, yeah. Locking a rate, locking a apartment. I would say the most critical thing to just take one big item off your immediate urgent list.
Qin En [21:05]
Uh, sounds like that incredible support. And it comes in a whole combination of small things that add up to really make the whole experience a lot easier.
And I'm glad that you made the transition very smoothly. You and your family are well, settled down in Singapore now. So Vivian, to wrap up today's conversation, if there's one lesson that you have learned as a parent in tech, what would that be?
Let me try to make this a little bit shorter, but essentially, I have seen a lot of synergies between being a parent and being a technical engineering manager.
And it's funny, the more I spend time being a manager and being a parent, the more I realize that there's a lot of overlap. Like I've learned from how to deal with my toddlers, how to communicate with them and apply to the same technique in how to communicate at work. I've learned how to give feedback to my team members sometime, you know, constructive feedback and for areas of improvement, applying that technique in coaching my kids to behave differently.
So that part has been interesting to see. And I think sometimes high leverage because. I kind of learned neutral ways. Yeah. That's something fun that, useful to share with someone else.
Qin En [22:20]
I love that. How you are at the workplace, the lessons as a leader, you take it back home and I'm sure if I see those. Well, Vivian, thank you so much for joining us on the show.
Today is some of our audience would like to connect with you. How can they best do so?
I'm actually not very active on Twitter.
Qin En [22:35]
Yes, definitely. You can find me on LinkedIn. Search my name and Singapore Stripe should pop up. LinkedIn is pretty good.
Qin En [22:42]
Sure sounds good. We'll find you there. Right, thank you so much once again Vivian, for joining us on the show, really appreciate it.
Thank you, thank you for having me.
Qin En [22:53]
Thanks for listening to the Parents in Tech podcast with me, your host Qin En. We hope you were inspired on how to raise kids and build companies to catch up on earlier episodes or stay updated with upcoming ones. Hate over to www.parents.fm to join our community of Parents in Tech. There, you can also drop me a question.
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